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Both entertainment and education have been integrals parts of the human

Both entertainment and education have been integrals parts of the human

experience since the beginnings of time. Many scholars insist that the two

institutions often serve jointly, with entertainers and entertainment

serving as a main source of education. There is little argument, then,

that in addition to generally appealing to the masses, entertainers have

regularly fulfilled the role of a teacher to typically unsuspecting

audiences. Entertainers have served as educators throughout history, from

the origins of oral narratives through the Middle Ages.

The earliest forms of unwritten communication were essentially

used to spread knowledge from one source to another. Religious disciplines

were the first information passed from person to person through

entertainment. In the third century B.C., Buddhist monks tried to win

converts outside India through the use of theater and song (Bur*censored* 97).

They taught the precepts of Siddhartha and Buddha in such theatrical epics

as Ramayana and Mahabharata, setting exacting rules for theater

performance in the process (Bur*censored* 99). Similarly, Irish monks

established singing schools, which taught uniform use of music throughout

the church (Young 31). Through chants which were all the same, they spread

identical teachings. Christian psalms and hymns in Apostolic times

were sung to spread the knowledge and faith of Christianity. In fact,

Christianity was promoted from the start by music. Churches were for long

the only centers of learning, with monks teaching all lessons through

music (Young 39). Through the use of sacred music, monks and clergy

successfully spread the teachings of their religions in a practical

Entertainers used the theater as a place to tell the stories of

the day, both fictional and topical. The African oral tradition was rich

in folk tales, myths, riddles, and proverbs, serving a religious, social,

and economic function (Lindfors 1). Likewise, Asian actors covered their

faces with masks in order to act out a scandal of the day without the

audience knowing who was passing along the gossip (Archer 76). European

puppets were another medium which permitted entertainers to spread current

gossip without revealing the identity of the storyteller (Speaight 16).

The theatrical productions of the Greeks further explored the use of

theater as an instructional tool. Because the theater provided such a

diverse forum for expression, stage actors and playwrights consistantly

utilized this locale to eduate the general public.

Oral communication was widely used to educate society about morals

and basic truths. The most highly developed theoretical discussions from

ancient times were those of he Greeks, who passed on this knowledge

through music and stories. Homer, the eighth-century B.C. poet, court

singer, and storyteller, embodied ideal Greek morals and heroic conduct in

his spoken epic, The Iliad (Beye 1). Homer and other poets used qualities

not found in written language to make the memorization of their works

easier so their sagas could be repeated for generations (Edwards 1).

African tribes people and Native Americans also instilled morals and

lessons to their communities through stories and fables (Edwards 1). These

oral narratives were soon after recorded on paper as early forms of

Many of the thoughts previously expressed through oral

communication only could now be recorded for the future as writing became

wide-spread. The era of writing began with Chinese literature more than

3,500 years ago, as the Chinese recorded tales on oracle bones (Mair 1).

The Greeks, however, were the first known civilization to translate their

oral history into writing (Henderson 1). While the earliest Greek

literature was produced by the Indo-Europeans in 2,000 B.C., the most

essential works began in Ionia with the epics of Homer in the eighth

century B.C. (Henderson 7). This oral poetry is the foundation of Greek

literature, and epic poetry such as Boetian¹s Hesiod explored the poet¹s

role as a social and religious teacher (Henderson 8). These written works

clearly informed those who read them, but were not as successful in

educating the masses as the Greek dramas. Any spoken works that were

especially significant could now be transcribed for posterity and future

Greek plays were also recorded on paper beginning around 500 B.C.,

reflecting issues of the day and entertaining audiences concurrently. The

tragedies of Euripides reflect political, social, and intellectual crisis.

Plays such as The Bacchae reflect the dissolution of common values of the

time, while other works criticized traditional religion or represented

mythical figures as unheroic (Segal 1). Each Greek drama was similarly

structured: problems were ³presented by the chorus, and resolved in purely

conventional--but always instructive--ways² (Bur*censored* 18). Topical comedies

reflected the heroic spirit, and problems facing Greek society during

times of great change (Henderson 2). Meanwhile, the dramas of Socrates

spoke about ethical and moral change, while Demosthenes¹ speeches hardened

Athenian opposition to Phillip of Macedon (Henderson 2). Similarly, the

Greek dramatist Aeschylus used his plays as a ³forum for resolving moral

conflicts and expressing a grandeur of thought !

and language² (Segal 1). Because all social classes of the community could

enjoy and understand the plays, Greek drama was a major force in educating

Following the onset of the second century, considerable movement

took place across Europe. Between 950 and 1350, the population of Western

Europe doubled (Lindsay 26-33). A shortage of teachers caused eager minds

to look elsewhere for education. Many of those traveling were instrumental

in spreading ideas, stories, and songs across the countryside. A new kind

of entertainer, the troubadours, served as the new commentators of the

day, successfully blending verse and music. Their poetry was the first to

³set about the conscious creation of a literary speech in the vernacular²

(Bogin 44). In songs called sirventes, the troubadours discussed current

affairs, politics, personalities, and scandals (Grunfield 25). Many

troubadour songs have texts referring to the Crusades of the fourteenth

century. Their crusading songs, such as those undoubtedly connected with

the campaign against the Arabs in Spain, brought political unrest to the

attention of the average citizen (Lindsay 61). Rog!

er II, however, protected Arab-speaking poets who rubbed shoulders with

his own Latin writers (Lindsay 44). Bertrand de Born became famous for

writing warmongering songs that ³stirred up barons and provoked kings into

going to war² (Grunfield 25). Walther von der Vogelwiede attained a unique

position among troubadours by transforming ³the short poem of proverbial

wisdom into a political weapon of satire and patriotism² (Hering 1).

Wandering troubadours sang most often about courtly love, but used their

unique form of entertainment to express concerns regarding social and

political topics to the general public.

Entertainers of the twelfth century also informed the public of

the principles of topics such as chivalry and religion. Troubadour Guilhem

de Poitou caused a sensation among friends and courtiers after writing

about love in a way that became the code for chivalry (Bogin 37-39). He

later spent a year among people of Antioch learning Arabic songs of Syria,

which he brought back to France (Lindsay 4). Poet Gerbert made

contributions to geometry, music theory, and arithmetic in his works which

customarily valued philosophy over prayer (Lindsay 45). The religious

songs of Martin Luther forced poets and scholars to take sides during the

Religious conflict of the Reformation (Hering 2). Luther¹s chorale ³Ein¹

feste Burge² became a national hymn during the reformation of the Catholic

church, encouraging followers to fight to worship in their own languages,

not the universally used Latin texts (Young 66). While the troubadours

were viewed primarily as entertainers who wandered aimless!

ly about the countryside singing about the virtues of courtly love, their

contribution as educators to the public cannot be mistaken.

As the troubadours slowly began to disappear, new kinds of

entertainers took their place, continuing to inform the general public

through different mediums. The meistersinger replaced the troubadour in

the late fourteenth century (Sebastian 2). Middle and lower class

meistersingers established schools for the cultivation of their craft,

ensuring a more structured form of entertainment than that of the

wandering troubadours (Sebastian 3). A famous early fifteenth-century

manuscript at the University of Heidelberg contains hundreds poems by the

most famous meistersingers as well as illustrations which are ³as

entertaining as they are instructive² (Young 44). John Wilbye represented

another new form of entertainer, the madrigalist, and provided studies of

English landscapes in the words and music of his madrigals (Young 71).

Again, there is a wealth of evidence to show that music was used

extensively to support the spread of religious belief. For example, King

rbury Psalter tells that ³musical sonorities² were introduced into the

service of the church (Young 46). Monteverdi¹s opera L¹Incoronazions di

Poppea educated audiences with its historical context and characters

(Young 77). The popularity of music remained dominant throughout the

Middle Ages, although writers began to entertain through the use of

European writers of the Middle Ages continued to comment on morals

and acceptable behavior through their works as their predecessors did

almost 2,000 years before. Hroswitha von Gandersheim, the first known

woman writer, was a nun who used the Roman playwright Terence as a model

for her morality plays (Hering 1). Dutch writer Jacob van Maerlant wrote

poems that showcased chivalry (Flaxman 1). Spanish playwright Lope de Vega

encouraged national patriotism and honor in his works that dealt with

dramatic conflicts and combined tragic and comedy elements (Gasset 3).

Calderon also stresses the Spanish code of honor in his masterpiece The

Mayor of Zalamea (Gasset 3). Later Francisco Gomez de Quevedo Y Villegas

wrote moral works in which he explored the decadence of Spain (Gasset 3).

Social concerns inspired the writings of Italian reformer Pietro Verri,

whose cynical interpretation of history established a new scientific

(Alvaro 1). His peer Leon Battista Alberti published On the Family, which

reflected the concerns Italians for social and ethical topics (Alvaro 1).

Still, other authors such as Prince Juan Manuel of Spain wrote such

seemingly simple tales as ³The Emperor¹s New Clothes,² from which reader

could extract the moral lessons (Gasset 3). During this era, Europeans

were constantly discussing politics and social issues, prompted by the

opinions of writers who commented on the subjects.

Entertainers throughout history have undoubtedly served as

educators to the public, in addition to their conventional roles as

musicians or writers only. While a few performers sought only to amuse

with their acts, the majority of entertainers have crafted their art with

a deeper purpose in mind. Each who chose to address society¹s problems and

speak to the general community through their art is as worthy an educator

as a modern-day college professor. Because many of the works of these

great artists were recorded on paper or passed down from generation to

generation through oral history, the insightful thoughts of these

entertainers continue to educate the public in the twenty-first century.

The Role of Entertainers as Educators

Alvaro, Richard. ³Leon Battisa Alberti.² Grolier Multimedia

Archer, Katherine. ³Asian Literature.² Grolier Multimedia

Beye, Allan. ³The Iliad.² Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia.

Bogin, Meg. The Women Troubadours. New York: Paddington Press,

Bur*censored*, Jacques. Theater. New York: Newsweek Books, 1974.

Edwards, Scott N. ³Homer.² Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia. 1996

Flaxman, Jacob. ³Dutch Literature.² Grolier Multimedia

Gasset, John. ³Spanish Literature.² Grolier Multimedia

Grunfield, Frederic V. Music. New York: Newsweek Books, 1974.

Henderson, Florence. ³Greek Literature.² Grolier Multimedia

Hering, Jack. The Gypsies: Wanderers in Time. New York: Hawthorne

Lindfors, Sven. ³African Literature.² Grolier Multimedia

Lindsay, Jack. The Troubadours and Their World. London: Frederick

Mair, Helen. ³Chinese Literature.² Grolier Multimedia

Sebastian, Gerald. Music In Time. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott

Segal, William. ³Greek Drama.² Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia.

Speaight, George. Punch and Judy. Boston: Publishers Plays, Inc.,

Young, Percy M. A Concise History of Music from Primitive Times to

Present. New York: D. White Co., 1974.

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